Medieval: Total War Review
developer: Creative Assembly
PII-300, 32MB RAM, 500MB HDD, 3D accelerator
|ESRB rating: T
release date: Aug 19, 02 (released)
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I am a mighty Sultan of the Ottoman Empire! My lands spread as far as the eye can see, and I rule over the whole of Euro-Asia! I threaten the Russians, and the Byzantine is but a tale of the old folk, shattering and crumbling in front of my warriors! My Saracen infantry, Golan Bodyguards, and the Armenian Heavy Cavalry are unrivaled on the battle field! My income is steady and the people are content. I am spreading the righteous faith left and right, and those who defy me end up sputtering their last at the tip of my sword! I am ruthless to my enemies, but merciful to my people, and my great deeds will be written in the annals of human history, so that future generations may learn about the mighty rule of 2Lions: The Conqueror...Oh, hang on. It's the wife again.
"Coming honey! Yeah, yeah -- I know it's 2AM, but goddammit! I'm right in the middle of teaching these Sicilian dogs a lesson. Who in the hell do they think they are defying my mighty rule like that? I'll releasing Jihad on their ass... What do you mean we won't have sex for two weeks? What? Come to bed right now, or you'll put laxatives in my food and run away with SixShooter? Ah crap. OK... I'm coming."
And so endeth the great rule of 2Lions: The Conqueror... But seriously, playing Medieval: Total War might give you illusions of grandeur, as this sequel to Shogun: Total War has gone a few steps beyond its predecessor in terms of capturing the atmosphere of a full-scale war. The player starts out as a ruler of one of the mighty (or not so mighty) empires of medieval Europe. The basic concept of the developers (that they brought to life in Shogun) was to create a game, which would be a mix of Risk-like turn-based gameplay and epic real-time battles with just a hint of management thrown in for good measure. But that's how things were in Shogun. In Medieval, this original idea was expanded and now that "touch" of management isn't just a touch any more, as Medieval: Total War now vaguely resembles Sid Meier's Civilization in terms of the amount of variables one has to consider in order to become a successful ruler.
In Medieval, you cannot simply "go to war." Oh-no-no! Before you even think about going to war you should first make sure that your citizens are content and that the economy is doing well. But that cannot be achieved over night. For example, if you're to make sure you have enough money to wage a long war, you should start out by strengthening the agricultural sector, and making sure trade routes abound across your empire. Once the economy is in place, you can start thinking about building up our army. But, be careful. If you don't work on developing stronger weapons, you might end up with a huge and yet poorly equipped army, which will burden your budget and still lose on the battlefield. You set yourself up like that, and you're sure to reduce your empire down to one measly territory, or even worse - lose your throne and ultimately your head! Medieval is far more advanced than Shogun in that the developers have made it clear that simply commanding a huge army doesn't make you a successful ruler; nor does the fact that your empire spreads half across the known world. Be careful not to reach for too much, because you might get more than you have bargained for. You could open up an additional front, or lose an ally. Cunning is needed, as well as good management, which makes Medieval, both more challenging and interesting than Shogun: Total War. Consequently, playing on a standard difficulty level will give you some trouble before you get the hang of things. Medieval adds a new strategic balance to the game, which teaches that great empires come with an even greater responsibility. And so do huge standing armies.
But, all this talk has to do with the turn-based part of the game. So, what about the battles? Are they as exciting as in Shogun? Luckily, the answer here is yes, and I say this for several reasons. First off, Medieval: Total War looks better than Shogun. In all honesty, the developers seem to have used the same engine as the foundation for the visuals, but the terrain now looks a lot more detailed, and even the units have had a bit of a makeover. I particularly liked how the horses and marching feet leave dust trails behind them, which is a nice touch by the design team. But more importantly, the musical score and the sound effects in Medieval are nothing short of spectacular and they account for much of the chilling atmosphere during the battles. Naturally, the mere sight of a thousand soldiers marching into what could be their doom should get you in the right mood, but it's good to see that Creative Assembly has put in an extra effort to enrich the game's atmosphere with masterfully placed audio and visual effects. The musical score and the sound effects dynamically follow the action on-screen. The day of the battle starts out just like any other spring day on the fields of Antioch. You can hear the sounds of birds and bathe in the warm summer breeze. But then in the distance, across the hill you see the enemy approaching. A great number of soldiers are now marching steadily into battle. And as they approach ever nearer, the tempo of the music increases. Suddenly, the enemy cavalry springs into an irresistible charge, and now the drums are as fierce as the sounds of their hoofs. Ready your spearmen! The battle is about to commence!
The second reason why battles in Medieval are more enticing is the sheer number of different nations and units that are now available in the game. Each of the empires has its specific set of units, and each of these has its own strengths and weaknesses. For example, the Turkish have the awesome Armenian Heavy Cavalry and Golan Bodyguards, and the French have their Royal Knights. Each of the empires of course has legendary units of unprecedented valor, but I won't mention those here, you'll need to find them for yourself.
The third reason is the addition of castle sieges, which was sorely lacking from the original game, complete with siege weaponry that can be used against live targets and not just castle walls. This is a logical addition to the real-time segment of the game, and it was only to be expected. Still, it's great to see that you can now lay a siege on the mighty Constantinople and thus recreate some of the famous events in the history of the world.
Finally, it's obvious that the enemy AI has gone through some major revamping, as your opponents will now readily try to flank you, and they'll take care of their elite units until the time to strike is just right. The AI changes are apparent, even at a first glance, and that is truly something that should be noted.
8.7 Very Good
An excellent idea expanded, enhanced and polished. Addictive and intelligent;
Quirky unit management issues. When will my soldiers learn to face the enemy and not the nearby hillside?